What is Hapkido?
Hapkido (also spelled hap ki do or hapki-do; Hangul: 합기도; Hanja: 合氣道) is a dynamic and eclectic Korean martial art. It is a form of self-defense that employs joint locks, techniques of other martial arts, as well as kicks, punches, and other striking attacks. There is also the use of traditional weapons, including a sword, rope, nunchaku, cane, short stick, and staff (gun, bō) which vary in emphasis depending on the particular tradition examined.
Hapkido contains both long and close range fighting techniques, utilizing jumping kicks and percussive hand strikes at longer ranges and pressure point strikes, joint locks, or throws at closer fighting distances. Hapkido emphasizes circular motion, non-resisting movements, and control of the opponent. Practitioners seek to gain advantage through footwork and body positioning to employ leverage, avoiding the use of strength against strength.
The art evolved from Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu (大東流合気柔術) or a closely related jujutsu system taught by Choi Yong-Sool (Hangul: 최용술) who returned to Korea after World War II, having lived in Japan for 30 years.
On the "hard-soft" scale of martial arts, hapkido stands somewhere in the middle, employing "soft" techniques similar to jujutsu and aikido as well as "hard" techniques reminiscent of taekwondo and tang soo do. Even the "hard" techniques, though, emphasize circular rather than linear movements. Hapkido is an eclectic, hybrid martial art, and different hapkido schools emphasize different techniques. However, some core techniques are found in each school (kwan), and all techniques should follow the three principles of hapkido:
Nonresistance ("Hwa", 화 or 和) → (화 Hwa 和 Harmony)
Circle principle ("Won", 원 or 圓) → (원 Weon 圓 Circle)
The Water/Flexible principle ("Yu", 유 or 柳) → (유 Yu 流 Flow)
Hwa, or non-resistance, is simply the act of remaining relaxed and not directly opposing an opponent's strength. For example, if an opponent were to push against a hapkido student's chest, rather than resist and push back, the hapkido student would avoid a direct confrontation by moving in the same direction as the push and utilizing the opponent's forward momentum to throw him.
Won, the circular principle, is a way to gain momentum for executing the techniques in a natural and free-flowing manner. If an opponent attacks in linear motion, as in a punch or knife thrust, the hapkido student would redirect the opponent's force by leading the attack in a circular pattern, thereby adding the attacker's power to his own. Once he has redirected the power, the hapkido student can execute any of a variety of techniques to incapacitate his attacker. The hapkido practitioner learns to view an attacker as an "energy entity" rather than as a physical entity. The bigger the person is, the more energy a person has, the better it is for the hapkido student.
Yu, the water principle, can be thought of as the soft, adaptable strength of water. Hapkido is "soft" in that it does not rely on physical force alone, much like water is soft to touch. It is adaptable in that a hapkido master will attempt to deflect an opponent's strike, in a way that is similar to free-flowing water being divided around a stone only to return and envelop it.
"As the flowing stream penetrates and surrounds its obstructions and as dripping water eventually penetrates the stone, so does the hapkido strength flow in and through its opponents."